Sunday, July 16, 2006

The kamikaze: reluctant warriors

A new book about Japan's kamikaze completely destroys the image of these "suicide warriors" as brave young men who gladly gave up their lives for honor and country. On the contrary, says author Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney in Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers: these young men were often forcibly enlisted, did not necessarily believe in the cause for which they were fighting, and often went to their deaths reluctantly, feeling they had no other choice but to obey their superiors.


From a review in The Economist:


The student soldiers, argues the author, were wantonly sacrificed in the military government's final gambit of the war. She reveals that the tokkotai (“special attack force”, which is what the kamikaze are referred to in Japan) had no volunteers when it was formed in October 1944. Instead, new recruits were either assigned by their superiors or forced to sign up using pressure tactics. No senior officer offered his life for this mission; instead the “volunteer” corps comprised newly enlisted boy-soldiers barely of age and student conscripts from the nation's top universities.

That the image of the kamikaze as uniformly bold and fearless survives to this day is not only because of American wartime propaganda, but because of a "myth of the nationalist hero spun by conservative institutions in Japan."





—Mellow Monk


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